4am and I’m rising to my alarm ringing.

Time for a pollo e funghi penne pasta meal!!!  Mmmmm. Lovely breakfast.

I did the Pedal for Scotland 2013 sportive last year and in my rush to get down to Murrayfield to catch the arranged transport through to Glasgow, I had skimped on my breakfast in favour of some snacks on the bus. I had learned the hard way that that REALY didn’t work – by bonking halfway through the morning and having to push on another 20 miles up and down hills to get to the lunch stop . I was cold, shaky and unfeasibly miserable by the time I got there…..

This year I was more organised- I had some tried and tested kit to wear that had stood the test of time and I had prepped my food, my clothes, my bike, my lights, my bottles, my map , fastened my bike numbers on the bike and cycling shirt and had downloaded the route into map my fitness app for reference. I had even remembered to charge up my spare back up battery for my phone and to get to bed early – well before midnight (though only just)  – the night before. All I had to do was get up, get washed , fed and dressed and out.

4.10 am and I’m microwaving pasta whilst checking weather forecasts – it’s looking good so I don’t have to take any of the heavier clothes – great!

4.15 tucking into the food and watching some of the Vuelta on the telly – just to get me in the mood.

4.30 washing / shaving – still blinking sleep out of my eyes.

4.45 getting into my clothes – fussing about with the fit of my pants so I don’t get chaffed. You know….. Udder cream gets liberally applied. Yup – it does! – Experience has proven its value time and again, let me tell you.

4.55 making final clothes / jackets selections and stuffing items into carefully balanced  pockets.

5.00 Time to leave! ……And I’m checking tyre pressure – merdre! Too low – track pump is out and blawing in a flash!

Its still dark and cold outside however….

So the leg and arm warmers are on….and what a great invention these things are . I’ve always struggled with thermal regulation. My ability to cycle at any sort of decent pace just drops into my boots when I get too hot. The ability to peel off my arms layer without even stopping still amazes me . Uncovering the legs still takes a stop but is still pretty quick.

5.10am I’m out in the dark streets pedalling past blank curtain windows. I decide not to risk the innocent railway in the dark and am hustling my way through deserted streets.   This is a full 30 minutes earlier than last year and I blitz my way across town because there is no traffic. Made it in record time – cycling through lights that were stuck on red because they don’t recognise me approaching and there is absolutely no traffic then anyway.

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I can’t afford to miss the bus and the starting slot of 6.30 to 730am. The Sportive instructions were quite clear on that. I was fully prepared however and managed to get to Murrayfield in good time, earlier than last year and was ushered around the back of the stadium where the organisers had two buses and two artic lorries waiting. They thoughtfully provided rolls of bubble wrap for you to wrap your bike frame. This is a good idea but I couldn’t be bothered with it. I recieved a slip of paper for my bike to remind me which lorry it was on, and they checked that the bib number on my chest matched that on my bike. This was important for bike collection purposes I was on the bus in no time, as it was still cold and dark and I didn’t want to get cold.

After about 15 minutes the bus had gradually filled and we were off. I nibbled on a cereal bar, a banana and a breakfast milk drink in order to boost my energy levels – there was no way I was going to get caught out with not having enough energy and bonking, So I sat and munched away like a little squirrel.

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The sun was gradually coming up and you could see that the ground was cold and had a low lying mist on them – it was eerily beautiful and I would have loved to linger but we were going full gas to Glasgow and would need to be quick to catch the last group or 2 of the sportive before they switched over to the classic city to city route only. Getting too warm, I struggled out of my leggings whilst bouncing around in the confined space between the coach seats as we rattled our way down the M8 and M73 motorways.

After what seemed to be a very short time, we arrived. The Arctic Lorries were already there and were unloading. The guys taking the bikes off were shouting the bike race number and you had to be wearing the same number on your chest or back to get the bike off them. It worked very well and the bikes were being unloaded quickly with a swarm of cyclists around the end of each lorry, awaiting the offloading and return of their precious bicycle back to them. Cooly composed faces all masked a secret anxiety of “what if my bike is missing?”. The system worked well however and everyone was soon re-united with their lightweight steeds.

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Glasgow Green Start

The Green is by far the oldest of the city’s parks. It is situated within walking distance of the city centre east of the Saltmarket and is currently being revitalised with major investment through the Lottery Heritage Fund providing a catalyst for the redevelopment of the local neighbourhood. In the middle of the Green there is a large building called the People’s Palace with a large Winter Gardens attached. This served as the registration point for people picking up their numbers and was apitstop for toilets and coffee.

We had arrived at 6.55am – the last sportive riders were to leave by 7.20am. Again, benefitting from last years experience, I had prepared myself on the coach in terms of last minute ablutions etc as there would be no time between receipt of bike and heading to the start line.

Be aware ! – A pitstop and a wait in the queue for the loo is definately not feasible, if you get the transport option through from Edinburgh in the morning. By th time you get your bike off the transport lorry , you have to be quick to get to the start line on time.  A quick cycle to warm up and a dash to the start line  were therefore the order of the day and I was heading off over the start line – in the last official group of fifty or so cyclists  – by 7.10am.

 

So I was off….I hadn’t spied any other cyclist that I knew on the way over or at the start line, so I was potentially on my own  for the day. I would hopefully hook up with other cyclists I know along the way, or I would chat with other folks that I would be travelling alongside for a while.

To chat – or not to chat – that is the question

Some people are quite happy to chat – others don’t want to because it breaks thier concentration or their just not comfortable with it. I have found that very often Sportive Cyclists will start off being quit tight lipped as they try and negotiate the route msaps , direction arrows , marshals and etc within th built up environment of the start point but relax a lot mor once their out on the open road.

I joined a group of other riders as we threaded our way out if the city. As before, I  found myself reflecting on the down side of being a single rider. Having a cycle buddy is really good on longer rides – someone to blether with as you ride passes the time and the miles pass much more easily than when you are on your own. You’ve also got someone that can lead out for a while and then can get on your wheel – and it’s always good to have someone who can spur you on when you’re flagging.

There was an unending stream of streets, corners and junctions which flew passed quickly as we worked our way out of the city. I seemed to be fairing quite well – passing a significant stream of cyclists strung out in a thin line down the streets of the route, until I notice dthta I had got to the point where the cyclists around me seemed to be going at my sort of pace (which is slow) neither pulling away nor being dropped by me. This is a magical natural self selecting process that always occurs within the first 5 miles or so of a sportive, in which you end up grouped with some cyclists around you who are going along at the same speed as you. Now is a good time to really look at the people around you – because chances are you’ll be seeing them either off and on or continuously for the next 70 miles, all being  well. Some people may arrive or depart from that group as energy levels ebb or flow, but on the whole, unless you take ages for food stops or have a mechanical thats the faces you’re going to see for a good few miles.

Moving on

Eventually the city buildings, gave way to suburban houses, which gave way to rural fields and roads. We were on the B769 – and the road had tilted up. We had passed Pollock Park, Thornliebank and Patterton. We crossed over to the west side of the M74, which meant we were about about 130m up and 13km out from the start. Another 5km to go before we would top out at 240m, so a few steeper hills ahead. I pushed on – catching up with and passing quite a few riders on the hills, which was nice. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t revel in other peoples misery, far from it – but it was nice to think that this non-club recreational cyclist was getting on up hills past other folk (most of whom were on bikes much newer and presumably lighter than mine).

Turning on the gas in a chain gang.

South Glasgow to Abingdon

Once we were on Dodside road and had climbed to the top, the road turned into a real gem – reasonably smooth road surface with rolling hills and mature green countryside. Thankful not to be climbing hills anymore, I turned on the gas a bit more and started to spin faster.

Ah….much better. It’s good to get a bit of speed up – get the wind in your face, the heat in your muscles, that slight burn in your lungs and legs. I was pushing along now, nose into the wind , but a group of 4 other riders chain-ganged past me. I joined their wheel. They were setting a good pace and I had to lift my own game to keep pace. This was good!! I yelled my “hello- mind if I join your wheel?” into the wind, as there is nothing more unfriendly than sitting on someones wheel, getting sucked along behind them without even introducing yourself. It’s just not decent, you know. Also, if you do join a wee chain, expect to filter your way to the front and do a stint there before being overhauled. Again, if you are benefitting from other people putting in the work – it’s only right and fitting that you take your turn and allow them to breathe a bit before coming back up to assist you.

This is where I have to confess that whilst I had got on to their tails in a good fashion and had a good few stints up front it wasn’t long before the relentless pace was making me flag. I wasn’t used to this sort of pace. Again, the downside to not having enough time to train with others. I’m going to have to do something about that. Get myself into a bike club or something…anyone got any good suggestions?

Unfortunately, we were now blasting along so quickly we missed one of the titchy arrow turn off signs to go down Clunch Road down to the A77. We blasted from Newton Mearns straight through Stewarton and on to Kinmaurs before we noticed a distinct lack of roadsigns. A quick stop and a check of our GPS or google maps enabled phones showed we were off course. We realised we were so far south that we were closer to Kilmarnock than to Galston, which was to be the next town on the signposted route. We plotted our route down to Kilmarnock in order to turn east along the A71 to reach Galston and pick up on the official signposted route. This added about 4km to the the distance by going to Galston via Kinmaurs, Kilmarnock and Hurlsford, instead of the shorter route that was signposted………Doh!

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Food stop privation equals energy loss just as we start to climb…sigh!

As well as the extra distance, there was another down side to our little off-piste sortie. Our new diversion meant we had missed the first food stop of the ride and consequently had another 35 miles to cycle before getting to the next one. Although I had eaten (sort of) before leaving in the morning, and although I had crammed a quick energy bar in before the off at Glasgow Green, my tank was beginning to empty and my legs were fading. I also realised that having just got to Galston, we were about to embark on two pretty big climbs just south of the town. I bade my speedy chums a farewell and said I’d be taking it easy up the hills. I broke out another energy bar – I was going to need more food than this. Strava informed me later that I had used up 4062 Kj of energy over the entire ride.

Just south of Galson, at the 40km mark, the road tilts up and goes up 181km in the next 3.3km – In Strava world it’s called the B7037 Climb and is considerd to be a category 3 climb at gradients between 4 and 14.2 per cent. I slugged my way up – both passing others and being passed by others. My energy levels had plummeted and I knew it was going to be at least 30 minutes or so before my digestion would offer anything better in the way of energy. I plodded on but didn’t push too hard – trying to save energy. I reflected that perhaps saving energy on the first part of the ride, stopping for fuel where it was provided and having energy to climb the first real long climb of the day would have made good sense – just as the route plotters would have intended it perhaps.

Just to add insult to injury there is a second part of the climb immediately after the first rising from 235m to 307m in 0.8km -its called the Burnhouse Climb. Both climbs took 32mins 10 seconds at an average speed of 10.7km/h – Woeful really – but I wasn’t at my best obviously.

The descent to Darvel drops to 129m from 307m in about 4km. It passed in a blur at speeds up to 45.4 kmh. We dropped to a road junction, joining the A71 again, where we proceded to climb up out of the very valley that we had just descended into.

To cut a veeeery long story short – there was a series of no fewer than 9 uphill sections that morning before the next food station at Crawford John – my average speeds increased up each hill as I took on more energy bars or gels but I was still starving by the time I got there. The weather had been variable – it had rained at times (light showers), been gusty at times ( it was generally windy) and I had been very focused on keeping on going , facing into the wind. I fervently hoped that as we turned east the wind would be behind me.

The lovely people at the community centre had put on live music – a tad too loud for my taste – loads of hot tea and coffee, sandwiches, energy biscuits and bowls of pasta. I ate everything that wasn’t tied down……

Clearly the local community were fighting a planning issue with the development of windmill farms on their doorstep, as a number of “object to this development” brochures were available at each table. This clearly didn’t sit well with a lot of the relatively knackered riders that appeared as most collected food and then went to sit outside….

Onwards – refreshed, refueled and much more like business as usual.

Surprise, Surprise – it was uphill again on the way out of Crawford John back up to the higher levels where the wind blew you about. I had travelled 106.2km and had cycled for 5 hours and 11minutes before I cycled under the A74 near Abington. I felt like I was cycling back in to a landscape that I knew and understood. I was coming back into “home” territory, having been abroad in foreign cycling territory that had preyed upon me with its wicked hills.

I had fueled up and was feeling much more refreshed at lunch and my performance was much more like business as usual. I was climbing hills better, revelling in the downhill sections and pushing up speeds on the flat sections. Turning left at Roberton, there was a Loooong category 4 uphill gradient that led on to another long Category 4 climb on the B7055. This took you over the shoulder of the range of Pentland Hills and into the valley that ultimately leads to Balerno. My average speed going uphill was 16.5km/h – a little bit faster than earlier. On the A70, I am pushing 35 to 40kmh, rolling up and down with the road, and loving it. Getting going again!!!

That bloody hill!!

As you enter Harley Holm from the west you turn right to face south east and you see down a straight street to a short sharp uphill section that is called Carmichael Hill (Devonside Road), that has an elevation gain of 96m in just half a kilometre. As I look up it, I see maybe half a dozen people cycling up it, straining everything just to creep up so slowly it looks like they’re standing still. The vast majority of riders (20 to 30 of them) are off their bikes and are walking up the left hand side of the road. Oh God! It looks like hell. As I approach the bottom, two you lads are handing out cups of water to passing cyclists, Tour de France style. “Chuck the cup away when you’re finished, they’ll pick them up ” they shout…

I’m in my granny gear and am ascending, concentrating on keeping a regular rythm. I hear my heartbeat and breathing loudly in my ears, as I strain further up the hill – the gradient has popped up from 5% to 12.3% . Bloody hell – this is getting steeper! And so it does – suddenly ramping up to 38% according to my Garmin and Strava read out, That can’t be right can it??

Carmichael Hill

 

It is right – and it certainly feels like it. I am having to lean hard over the handlebars to keep the front wheel from lifting. I am having to push evenly on the pedals to stop the rear wheel from slipping. Mental note – I must write to Simon Warren – Author of “100 Greatest Cycling climbs” and “Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs”. This one has to get put into it – it has to be printed for the world to see.

I’m now red-faced, panting heaviliy and cursing every kilogram, of my gravity sucked bodymass as I lever it up the hill in foot long sections. Crank, crank, push push push. I’m getting there – but the sweat is running down the small of my back and my legs are now vibrating beneath me. Bizarely, I’m loving it, grinning ear to ear in a kind of deathly grin as I suck in air to try and oxygenate my labouring muscles. I am absolutley and coldly , ruthlessly determined to get up the hill when others have failed. I feel oddly removed from my surroundings and am sitting back in my brain observing my body performing as I am commanding ( although barely) and am barely registering the discomfort and pain in my legs from the lactic acid build up. My eyes are stinging now from sweat from my brow that has burst over the dam of my eyebrows. I can’take my hand off my bars now, I’ll just have to perservere, blinking crazily my by-now red-rimmed eyes. I’m not caring – I’m mentally in a cool place reflecting on my effort so far and determining the next best push. I approach what appears to be the top and I see that it is in fact a left hand right angled turn with yet more hill beyond it. Shit! ………..I can see the top though, it’s not too far – Keep pushing Phil you can get there. C’mon!

…and suddenly it’s all over. The three cyclists immediately in front of me stop dead in their tracks and put their feet down. I swerve crazily trying to get past with no distance to spare, start to get turned back down the hill by the gradient and thats it….I have to unclip and put my feet down or I’d be over in a heap. Damn it!! I was doing okay…I could maybe have completed that hill in one go!!! Trying to get started and clipped in and push on upwards on the steepest gradient section is impossible so I grumpily walk for a small section until I judge (correctly) that I can probably get going again – I do so straight away.

I took me 9mins 59 seconds to climb 89m on that bloody stretch of road – i will DEFINATELY be coming back to do this bit of road again,,,and again…and again. Oh yes…..

I think I might be a cycling sado-masochist – I certainly have all of the hallmarks.

The downhill after this is fantastic – in 3mins 38 seconds I top out at 58.9kmh because my legs are still twitching from the hill climb.

By now I’m pushing on, my confidence building as I get closer and closer to Edinburgh and on to roads I recognise.

Interestingly, I had travelled 106.2km and had cycled for 5 hours and 11minutes before I cycled under the A74 near Abington, the latter 80km were completed in 3hours 45 minutes and 49 seconds, A huge improvement. I blazed into Edinburgh feeling just great – my endorphins going crazy with the delight of being back hame.

Overall 184.6 km in 8hrs 01min 02seconds.

Pedal for Scotland 2014 – Sportive (long route) 110 miles

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Running continuously (even through the summer months), I’m now running a small virtual group ride round the island of Watopia, for myself and several of my cycling buddies in my Meetup cycling group. 

Eh- What? 

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Seriously…now that the dark hours and crap weather are upon us, we can apply Velominati Rule No. 5 and get out there in the cold and wet …or we can man up and hit the turbo’s indoors …!

Except that cycling indoors can be very VERY boring…

No ..seriously ..it really is….

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Like a lot of other things in life, computers and electronics can now help us out with a bit of indoor turbo cycling that turns out to be a bit like immersing yourself into a video game…

Using the Eurobike award winning online cycling platform called Zwift , turbo’ing indoors has actually turned out to be quite fun. Graphics are good and you can chat (aka text) with literally hundreds of real cyclists from all around the world as you cycle –

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Being a bit of a geek , I was an early adopter during the BETA testing and I can honestly say I’m loving it… so much so that I’ve started to really encourage others to give it a go…

Check it out at www.zwift.com

There is obviously a cost factor to the equipment required to get online, but it can be less than you might think, if you’ve already got a turbo trainer and a home PC / mac / Ipad (soon*).

There are three basic levels of set-up that you can go for :-

  1. Basic
  2. Flexible
  3. Premium

The clever people from GCN have put together a nice video that explains it quite nicely before I get into the nitty gritty of  the techncallities:-

THINGS YOU WILL NEED:-
1. A bike

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2. A Trainer – Turbo or Rollers.

bkool-pro-trainer
3. An ANT+ compatible speed and cadence sensor OR an ANT+ compatible power meter OR a “smart “trainer that has the sensors or power meter built in..

bkool-ant-plus-usb-stick-lowres
4. An ANT+ USB dongle, which needs to be plugged into your PC/ MAC or IPAD
5. An internet connection
6. A Zwift account – DO NOT FEAR – Zwift allow you to try it out FREE for 14 days or 50km (which ever runs out soonest) before you need to put any money down . If you do take the plunge, it’s £8 a month but you DON’T have to front up credit card detail or money to have a go on the free try. So go on – give it a go!)

I confess to being quite hooked already …and saw benefits in my Caledonia Etape early in the year from having a weekly go in Zwift during the winter.

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I’m happy to provide advice on equipment , make suggestions etc as I just love to help people get involved.

Drop me a message if you need a hand after checking out the following links :-

http://zwift.com/what-is-it/

http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/category/accessories/training-software/product/review-zwift-zwift-49225/

In terms of equipment, any turbo trainer will do, as long as you can change the resistance of the trainer whilst on the bike, to help simulate the uphill sections.

The fancier more expensive trainers can connect to zwift directly using an ANT+ connection to your computer and an internet connection for your computer to interact with th eZwift world. The cool thing with a smart trainer is that it will automatically adjust the resistance to suit the virtual terrain your going through.

I have one of these – a B-kool Pro, and I confess to loving it, as its so easy to set-up and dismantle.

bkool-pro-trainer

If you use a basic or dumb trainer you’ll need a speed or speed/cadence sensor to allow the computer to know what you’re doing on your bike and act accordingly.

For a Speed cadence sensor, I’d recommend the following Garmin Speed cadence sensors, as you don’t have to line up fiddly magnets on wheels to make them work :- http://www.wiggle.co.uk/garmin-speed-cadence-sensor/?lang=en&curr=GBP&dest=1&sku=5360660283&ci_src=18615224&ci_sku=5360660283uk&utm_source=google&utm_term&utm_campaign=UK_PLA_Accessories&utm_medium=base&utm_content=s31UFlp58_dc|pcrid|67090793462|pkw||pmt||prd|5360660283uk

garmin-speed-cadence-sensor-gps-cycle-computers-black-010-12104-00-0

but there are cheaper ones out there…for around the £25 mark.

The cheapest fully functioning USB ANT+ dongle I have found is on Amazon for £10! :-http://www.amazon.co.uk/douself%C2%AE-Black-Garmin-Forerunner-011-02209-00/dp/B00T7C2DWA/ref=sr_1_5?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1426166473&sr=1-5&keywords=ant%2B

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The Zwift programme is really good at helping you during set-up and it really is quite simples….

See the Zwift link above ….and the links below:-

Road CC’s How to get started on ZWIFT

Getting started with Zwift – A tour through the program menu and screen functions

Zwift for beginners ( a bit dated – there’s now a Richmond and a London track)

Getting the most out of Zwift.

Hope to see you there!!

Cycling in a virtual world

garmin-520

Because this is a constant query that I get from folks when out on a group ride, It occured to me that I should really get some notes down about things you can do with your Garmin cycling computer on your bike. Apart from actually going cycling that is ….

 

 

 

  • Loading a pre-designed TCX or GPX route file remotely via phone sync.
  • Procedure for mac or PC.
  • Download the GPX / TCX file from Strava (or equivilent routing website) and save it somewhere memorable on your PC or in your Dropbox/ Icloud / other cloud storage space.PLEASE NOTE Garmin Connect will only import files with time & date stamps. Most routes do not contain this data (which is what makes them routes and not tracks!)
  • However, there is a simple and free (PC) app to automatically insert this data to a GPX file for example, and the file will then be accepted by Garmin Connect: http://www.gpstrackeditor.com/

gps-track-editor

  • Please use this small program to add timestamp information (I use 20kmh intervals) to any GPX file that isn’t uploading into Garmin Connect properly and amazingly the GPX that didn’t load 1st time, well get uploaded and display properly.
  • Upload it to your courses on connectgarmin.com.
  • To do this using a desktop – go to Connect.garmin.com and login.Using menu bar to left, go into Activities module.Go to top right and choose import and upload fileGo back to Activities module for a refreshed screen – your route should be there as an activityHighlight the activity and go to option Save it as a route to then create a saved route from the activity.

garmin-connect-computer

  • Now synchronise your Garmin with your Garmin connect. Either :-Using your Garmin Connect phone app, sync it with the Garmin device your using. (The upload happens via blue tooth so can take a few minutes – be patient). Or:- Plug that garmin in to your PC/Mac with a USB cable and synch with Garmin Connect that way (this will be quicker – but you need the cable).
  • You will eventually see a screen message saying Sync complete, and will be able to navigate to courses section using the onscreen menu – your new course should be there for you to select and then choose ride.

I hope that helps!!!

How to add TCX or GPX route files to your Garmin Cycling Computer using Garmin Connect

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SOooooooo…Its been a bit of a blur……Where do I begin ?

Well…I guess I could start with early 2015, I was made redundant .

My regular daily / weekly routine (such as it was..) went really far out of the window BIG TIME as I scrambled into need -to-find-a-job mode.

Which was a shame really ….as I’d kind  of just started to get into a routine of cycle commuting regularly into work and that was a REALLY GOOD THING. I loved it – even in the typically not so friendly Scottish Weather., even on the west end cobbles that made your hands numb.

OK- there was 1 day when I turned up at work all scratched and bloody after a nasty tumble off my bike when a car stopped dead in front of me from a good speed and I couldn’t stop in time and hit the back of the car…

I almost managed to steer away to the side but instead caught the back corner and did an almost prefect forward somersault onto the pavement. The real shame was that I didn’t manage to land on my feet with a TADA! but had too much forward momentum and faceplanted into the pavement instead.  I saw stars for a while and some passers-by were so supportive and helpful and stayed with me until I could gather myself together. Amazingly, the bike was fine (1 new scratch to add to the older ones) and so was the car.

So much so that the car driver just drove off. (I learned later, that leaving the scene of an accident is actually a chargeable offence….ah well…).

The point of all of this is to say that I haven’t blogged for sooooooo long a time because life kind of got in the way…kind of took over and got WAY too hectic and uncontrolled for quite some time…..

That’s life though, isn’t it?

By way of a VERY concise summary..I can sat that in this last year I’ve :-

  • Landed a really good job with a great company doing interesting and involving  projects with GREAT clients, who seem to like what I do and how I do it. It’s fab.
  • Become really really busy….did I mention the new job?
  • Completed an apartment building in Perth, And one in Leith, Edinburgh.
  • Refurbished 2No Health Centres for Edinburgh Leisure.
  • Been quoted in local papers about plans for other developments.
  • Still managed to organise a really great family holiday in Ronda, Spain, which is a really lovely town that sits on top of a crazy precipice looking over the Andalusian mountains. Fantastic place to visit. I even managed to get out on an E-bike in 38 degrees C heat with my son – who amazingly really loved getting out and about on the bike! (That’s a first!)
  • Turned into a wedding planner / organiser with my wife for what seemed like a very long time ( it was only a matter of months) to organise the wedding of my daughter.
  • Helped my son move out to an apartment of his own.
  • Despaired over the Brexit vote and the carnage that is now under way in the UK. So much bitterness, hate, paranoia and out and out racism being displayed by people in authority and in leadership roles it’s painful to see. I can say the same thing of course about the US too.
  • Completed  the Caledonia Etape 2016 – and shaved nearly an hour off my previous personal best. Loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it.
  • Finally managed to ride the Bethany Edinburgh Sportive.
  • Got hooked on Zwift.com during the winter months and still go on even during the summer months. I honestly think it helped with the Caledonia Etape that I’ve mentioned earlier.
  • Have already booked the Etape Loch Ness 2017, and the Caledonian Etape 2017 too.
  • Attended other extended family relatives weddings and am about to travel to another one very soon.
  • Got excited about my nephew’s son being born.
  • Got excited about my niece’s daughter being born.
  • Am still excited about my other niece expecting a baby too.
  • Completed the Tour o The Borders Sportive 2016 – really windy but a decent time considering.
  • Still managed to get out and about on my bike whenever I could. I recommend checking out cycling activities on Meetup.com if you’re not already a member of a cycling club. I cycle with “Lothian Cyclists” (Look them up on Google) – which is a social group who cycle rather than being a die hard cycling club. It works better with my irregular working patterns and allows me to dip in and out of rides as and when I can. Did I mention being busy, job, weddings , travel, family, people moving house etc etc?
  • Taken possession of a Fly 12 and a Fly 6 video camera light for front and back of my bike. I’m well impressed with these by the way – and will write more about them later.
  • Upgraded to a Garmin 520 bike computer – It’s a good unit and I’ll write more on that later too.
  • Started to tinker around with gear ratios and teeth numbers on my main bikes rear cassette – Now, this is actually a really, really good indicator that life has resumed something closer to a normal pace, as I’ve just not had the time to even entertain the notion before.

So yes….it’s been a crazily busy year, that started in 2015 with a setback.

It’s been all change , been more than a little unsettling and has required a constant battling , pushing forward and a massive amount of energy expended.

Its been exhausting, I’ll be glad to get to the Christmas holidays break in one piece, but I’ve enjoyed it too.

That’s life though…isn’t it ?

I hope to be writing more often again…..

 

That’s Life though- isn’t it?

Recce and tips from my Pre-Caledonia Etape ride

Caledonian Etape Route Map 2011

Caledonian Etape Route Map

I’m riding the Caledonia Etape on Sunday 10th May 2015.

I rode it last year …and thoroughly enjoyed it – fantastic scenery, some challenging climbs, closed roads, literally thousands of other cyclists, great support and very, very well organised.The town of Pitlochry had been turned into a cycling mecca for the weekend complete with a base camp area of sponsors tents, service providers, masseurs, bike retailers etc. The locals were fully behind the event and incredibly warm and welcoming – what’s not to like?

Queens view by Douglas Corrance and Still Digital

Queens view by Douglas Corrance and Still Digital

So I’m going again this year ….

Wisely, I decided to go and “do” the route this past weekend to remind myself of the realities of the route instead of the rose tinted foggy eyed reminiscence that I was obviously deluding myself with.

So here’s my watch list of tips for anyone who hasn’t done the Etape before….

1. Get fat

The Scottish roads put up with a whole load of crap weather and regularly get beat up even during our so-called “summer”  weather. The route has recently had some potholes filled and so on – so is in relatively good nick.

I was, however, getting a lot of road buzz coming up to my hands through the front forks.

The road immediately out of Pitlchry heading north is fine, it’s once you turn left over the Tummel Bridge that the chips in the road surface become more obvious – it’s not harsh – definitely nowhere near cobble classics or anything – but just enough road buzz to kill your hands over the long ride if you have a stiff set up. It was more than I remembered from last year and I couldn’t tell if it was down to my new wheels or something else …..my advice is go up to 25’s if you are sporting 23’s or fatter if you can manage it between your wheel and your frame.

2. Layer up

On my day out on Saturday the weather was kind, even sunny in parts. It was however very cold at about 3 degrees. I’ve never really been bothered by cold but once you get past the Queens View part of the ride, which is sheltered by trees, you drop down to the edge of Loch Rannoch and ride around it’s circumference.

Beautiiful Loch Rannoch

Beautiiful Loch Rannoch

Tree cover is patchy and the road is very open to the elements. A cold ride felt even colder when the wind came down the hill.  Take extra layers – you may not need them…I hope we don’t –  but we might. The Scottish weather is notorious for being quite micro climate like and the weather in one valley may be very different from the valley you are leaving behind. You may get 4 seasons worth in one day…just saying.

frozen riders in 2013 milan san remo

pedaldancer.com its actually from the Milan San Remo but you get the drift…(get it?)

3. Scheihallion – there’s snow on them thar’ hills

This beautiful mountain dominates the Loch Rannoch area and is visually striking in its almost pyramidal shape to its upper slopes. On Saturday, the upper slopes were still covered in snow. Not enough to block the road that the route goes up and over – it was fine, but it goes to show that on the upper levels – going over the high pass into the next valley -air  temperatures do drop.

Schiehallion%20small

Scheihallion by Richard Paul – http://www.my-scotland.org.uk/Richard-Paul

4. Get mechanical – check your bike

I got into trouble almost immediately after Kinloch Rannoch when ascending up through “that twisty bit” with the steepest slopes at the base of Scheihallion. Basically, when on my inner ring, my chain was slipping awkwardly on my rear cassette, which meant I couldn’t maintain an even rhythm or momentum. There was too much chain dop and some links need to get removed. This is on a bike with a relatively new chain and cassette, that had been serviced within the last few months – so problems  were not expected. Needless to say – a stripdown and re-build will be happening this week. I confess, I ended up walking up some of the steeper sections as I was fearful of breaking the chain if I put the pressure on and it slipped again. Bike TLC required.

Thankfully I’m quite handy on cycling mechanics and have a good set of tools so a strip down and clean is no bother for me. Others may prefer to get others to do it for time or peace of mind reasons – either way get your bike checked out / serviced.

5. Take plenty of food /water.

On my return, my Garmin estimated a calorie consumption of just under 4000 calories for the ride (I’m a big guy as cyclists go). That’s more than a days worth of calorie intake – so make sure you’ve got food / water to take care of yourself if for any reasons the foodstops aren’t available or are too busy  / have run out. Note:- This has never happened in my experience, but you really don’t want to bonk on the return leg, as the road is open, always contrives to have the prevailing wind in your face and there’s a nasty legbreaker steep ascent  when you turn left to head northwards back to Pitlochry within the last 7 miles. You need your good legs on for that one – but thankfully its short and sweet.

It looks deceptive – and its very short when you turn the corner but gawd it hits at your tired legs…..

6. Brake!

The Scheihallion descent is long and flowing but like all good things it comes to an end …with two tight corners, one of which is almost a right angle turn. Hitting 48-to 50mph on the downhill is easy, ……just remember you have to be able to stop and unknown obstacles may be in your way.

Sadly, I have not yet gone down the slope without an ambulance or paramedic team being present somewhere on the road tending injured riders who have gone off through fences / hedges etc. And rear ending an ambulance is a distinct possibility if you’re not paying attention.

So heads up! Eyes peeled! Use your brakes, stay away from other riders (they can come to a sudden slowing / stop too!), and stay safe.

7. Lastly…

But most importantly –  go easy to begin with, lift your head up and see the fantastic scenery you’re riding through – its some of the best of Scotland.

I really hope you enjoy the ride.

EZPC

The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

I saw this it made me laugh ….Can you have too many bikes ?
Yes …..but only if you find you are not using them very often… a bikes purpose is to be used isn’t it …are do we collect them as works of aesthetics we just want because they are beautiful as well?
See the attached blog on “N+1 rule of bike acquisition ….”
Me? I’m just jealous of the authors noted collection of bikes …and the fact that he keeps them in the dining room…..LoL.

If you’ve been around bikes long enough, you’re likely familiar with the “n+1” principle. Velominati describes it as follows:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I became quite caught up in the n + 1 principle in my early days as a bike enthusiast, although I did not know it had a name. My stable quickly grew from one Fuji road bike to a road bike + fixed gear + light touring bike + a commuter/touring bike + folding bike + single speed folding bike + you get the idea.

As cycling became one of my central activities, bicycles…

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